Cobb County Pretrial Diversion, Part 1

Pretrial Diversion ("PTD" or simply "diversion") is one of many ways in which a person who made an uncharacteristically poor decision can save his or her prefect record from being marred by a conviction.  While there are other options (conditional discharge, first offender treatment, records restriction, etc.), pretrial diversion is often the first and best way to take care of the problem of keeping a clean record.  It works by allowing the person charged to atone for the crime prior to trial, and then the State drops the case.  So formally the person is never convicted of the crime. 

The first thing to know about pretrial diversion programs is that they are all unique to the county, and the offices within the county, that handles the charge.  Cobb handles it different from Paulding which handles it different from Fulton which handles it different from Bartow, etc. etc.  Even within a county, the DA's office can handle it different from the Solicitor's office, and then different classifications of crimes will be handled differently within the office.  

In this article I will be focusing on the terms of Pretrial Diversion in Cobb County for certain nonviolent misdemeanors: simple possession of a controlled substance ("Violation of Georgia's Controlled Substance Act", or "VGCSA"), minor in possession of alcohol ("MIP", this usually includes underage drinking), and simple theft crimes.  

You must be approved for diversion by the Solicitor's office.
Solicitors call this "diversion eligible."  They first look at the accused crime and then look at your criminal record.  If the record is clean (including no previous diverted or discharged violations) and the accused crime is one that diversion is offered, then you may be diversion eligible.  There are a number of factors that could potentially make a person ineligible for diversion, that is one reason why you must have an attorney. 

You must have an attorney.
An attorney is in the best position to negotiate your case and will understand the diversion process.  Because diversion is an odd creation of the offices that offer it, it is necessarily part of the negotiation process.  It involves both negotiations and motions practice, and requires someone who both knows the system and is advocating on your behalf: an attorney.  

Entering the program.
In order to enter the program you must fill out the proper paperwork with your attorney who will then properly file it with the correct offices.  There is a nonrefundable $150.00 fee.  Further, if you are under 21 you must hand-write a two page essay on why you should be considered for the pretrial diversion program.  

The basic requirements.
I can break the terms of the program into two types: those terms that apply to all three types of crimes addressed in this article, and those terms that only apply to the individual crime.  First, I will discuss the terms for all three crimes (VGCSA, MIP, and theft).  Note that all requirements must be completed within 12 weeks of entering the program.  
1. Forty hours community service at a nonprofit organization with proof of the hours in a signed letter from a supervisor with the supervisor's contact information.  
2. Any restitution appropriate to the crime Restitution is payment for any harm done to anyone because of the crime.  
3. Appearance at court on the day that the case is dismissed.  

MIP ONLY.
 - Must admit, in writing, form whom and where you got the alcohol.
 - Three clean drug and alcohol screens to be done 20-30 days apart at the Cobb Superior Court.  There is a fee for these screens of about $50.00
 - Complete a Drug and Alcohol Evaluation and any recommended treatment.  These must be done by a state certified professional.  They charge a fee between about $100 and $300 for the evaluation and will likely recommend that you participate in a number of AA or NA meetings.  
 - MADD VIP or Similar Program.  There are a few options including a video to be watched at the Solicitor's office.  

VGCSA ONLY.
  - Three clean drug and alcohol screens to be done 20-30 days apart at the Cobb Superior Court.  There is a fee for these screens of about $50.00
 - Complete a Drug and Alcohol Evaluation and any recommended treatment.  These must be done by a state certified professional.  They charge a fee between about $100 and $300 for the evaluation and will likely recommend that you participate in a number of AA or NA meetings.  
 - MADD VIP or Similar Program.  There are a few options including a video to be watched at the Solicitor's office.  

Theft ONLY.
 - Attend a court approved theft seminar.  There are currently very few court approved seminars that will fit this requirement.  One is online and the other is at Chattahoochee Technical College.  Talk to your attorney about the details of these programs.  

 

===== Final Notes =====

If you get arrested during diversion then it counts as a failure.  
Failure to complete within the time allotted counts as an overall failure.  You have 12 weeks from the time that the solicitor approves you for diversion to complete the requirements.  
The solicitor will not deviate from the program.  

If you fail to complete diversion for any reason then the case gets docketed back on the calendar.  Should that happen there may still be options available, but you should talk to your attorney about those options.  

Records restriction, that is, having the records of your arrest and prosecution hidden from the public, may be an option in many of these cases.  Your attorney is in the best position to get this for you.  

You should always talk to an attorney about your individual case.  Each case is different and this is not an exhaustive guide to the subject.  This article is not meant to be legal advice, merely a layman's preview of a specific, yet common, issue.  

Often diversion is the best choice and often it is not.  You should consult with an attorney about this option and the facts of your, unique, case.  I am an attorney who has achieved successful results with the diversion program.  I am also an attorney who recognizes that diversion may be the best of the LAST options; the first options involve quality investigation and legal argument.  

My first option is to fight your case on its merits and win.  

Please contact me if you have been charged with any of these crimes.  I'd like to talk to you about the facts of your case and see what options we have available.  I want to help.